PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome): what you can do
September is PCOS awareness month. Though this is a subject that has been talked about a lot, there are still a lot of women out there who don’t know what to do, where to start from. We at Meopin, know this journey is hard and would like to make it a little better by giving you all that you need to know about this disorder.
PCOS stands for polycystic ovarian syndrome. It is one of the most common disorders in women, accounting for 85% of ovulatory disorder diagnoses and affecting atleast 1 in 10 women in the world. The education of this syndrome is evolving mainly based on the collective feedbacks, insights, stories shared by women worldwide. No two women have the same symptoms or experiences. It can vary from woman to woman. The exact cause of PCOS is still unknown. PCOS can be genetic and our mothers might have had it but since there was very little known about it then, diagnoses were harder than how it is now. Even now, there are very few studies done about it and this syndrome can be often misunderstood. The word cyst in polycystic can be misleading since some women may or may not have cysts in their ovaries.
When to see a doctor: symptoms
Signs and symptoms of PCOS can develop around puberty or sometimes when there is sudden weight gain.
If you experience atleast two of the three signs, then you know you need to see a doctor:
- Irregular periods – Periods that are infrequent, irregular or prolonged are the most common signs. Some women don’t get their periods for months and some have it for more than 7 days. With abnormally heavy periods.
- Excess androgen – Hirutism (excess facial and body hair) and acne are signs of having excess male hormones in the body. Cystic acne on the chin and neck are signs along with male-pattern baldness.
- Polycystic ovaries – The reason why the syndrome gets its name: enlarged ovaries that contain follicles surrounding the eggs. Follicles are small collections of fluids. These can prevent the ovaries from functioning properly.
- Insulin resistance: Insulin manages blood sugar. But if you have PCOS, the body doesn’t react to insulin and thus it might end up producing more which affect your ovaries too.
Sometimes women tend to ignore irregular periods as a sign till they are trying to get pregnant and find out that the PCOS is a cause. It is better to go check your symptoms with a doctor and seek an early diagnosis, since PCOS has long term complications. Women with PCOS have higher chances of getting Type 2 diabetes and develop heart conditions. Anxiety, depression, weight gain (around the stomach) are few of the other tell-tale signs.
Things in your control
Reading this one might think that there is nothing that can be done about this except go to a doctor and take medicines. But there are things that are in your control. It is a metabolic syndrome and this is not stressed enough. PCOS is not curable but it can be controlled.
A few ways that you can take control of PCOS:
- Whole foods – Have a lot of whole foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole-grains and iron-rich food. Get your carbohydrates from healthy sources and balance it with protein. Avoid sugar and processed food since it might make your insulin resistance worse.
- Cinnamon: Adding cinnamon powder to warm water in the morning can go a long way. Cinnamon is shown to have a positive effect on insulin resistance and it is said to regulate periods
- Turmeric: Even including a little turmeric helps since it is also an anti-inflammatory agent
- ACV: Drink a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with warm water every day (use a straw). It can improve your immunity while balancing pH level in your body.
- Maintain healthy weight: Usually one of the first things doctors advice is to lose weight through a low-calorie diet, if you are overweight.
- Exercise: Since PCOS can make one feel lazy, exercise can be the best way to push out of that inertia. Swimming, aerobics, cardio and yoga/pilates can help with increasing your metabolism. High intensity interval training and long distance running can reduce symptoms of PCOS.
- Meditate: Stress is a by-product of PCOS and you need to keep it in control. Reducing stress can regulate cortisol. Self-care is important.
- Sleep: Getting a good night’s sleep becomes two times more difficult with PCOS. But sleep is important to balance your hormones so practice good sleep hygiene every day, atleast 8-10 hours. Try to have a routine and sleep around the same time every day to make it easier. Do not eat anything rich, fatty and heavy right before bedtime.
- Supplements like zinc, magnesium, inositol are also helpful but consult with your doctor before you take them.
Diet and exercise is the biggest way you will see results. Caffeine and smoking are a strict no-no. It takes time to make the mind get used to thinking healthy but you can definitely get there slowly and steadily with small steps. Remember you are not alone. There are a lot of support groups out there, even on Facebook. If you felt lost, confused and didn’t know where to start from, then I hope this article helped. Consult with a doctor and have an ongoing discussion about your health.
Lets focus on getting to the best version of ourselves for ourselves.